i think half the “romeo and juliet is not a love story” fallacy comes from the fact people regard their deaths as being what supposedly makes it the great love story its been called. and that’s just…. not it. their death is a tragedy. it’s not romantic and it’s not what “proves” their love. it’s a tragedy, end of story. it’s a terrible, hideous, awful fate that befell them due to a toxic world. they - romeo and juliet but also the other young characters - were young people who grew up in a terrible environment, neglected by their parents or abused by their peers, and so they are a product of that society. tybalt’s fervour, mercutio’s mania, romeo’s melancholy, juliet and even benvolio’s strive to level-headedness through it all even though it’s so so difficult and ultimately impossible to endure. it’s fucking awful and i don’t know how people can’t see that. romeo’s parents don’t know a fucking thing about him and leave benvolio - benvolio! who is romeo’s age! a kid as well! - to deal with him. juliet’s been cooped up and luckily has nurse - really luckily; her own father doesn’t know her age while nurse practically knows it down the second - but in the end she is just as immersed in this poison as romeo. to grow up in a world where hatred and prejudice fuels every little thing, where your parents and family, the people who are supposed to love you, care more about feeding that venom than they do you, is terrible. this society has formed its own pitfalls, doomed its children to horror. we get the entire plot in the prologue because shakespeare wants us to feel that impending doom, knowing everyone is now helpless to stop the fate that will befall the lovers. they’re going to die and we know it, because their world has given them absolutely no other option. there is no way a person can happily and lovingly thrive in their society. they will die.
romeo and juliet is not a love story because of their deaths. it’s a tragedy because of their deaths and it’s a love story because of their lives. because amidst all the violence, all the bloodshed, the prejudice and never-ending hatred which has plagued the city for so long it’s as natural as breathing and never even questioned, is a beautiful love story. romeo’s awful poetic monologuing about rosaline disappears and is replaced by absolutely gorgeous poetry, shared in dialogue with juliet so their meeting scene creates the perfect shakespearean sonnet. all of those awful things we’ve had to witness so far, the neglect and abuse and violence and suffering which has been beating away at these characters, is completely replaced by love. even if you choose to believe that given one more week they would have fallen out of love, it doesn’t matter. in the moments they have, romeo and juliet adore each other. in a place where nobody knows how to love, they are each other’s comfort and guide, something to fight for, something to hold. they love and are loved in return and it is done so with unyielding passion. and yes, its ardent power rushes them headfirst into a sudden and tragic downfall, but they were doomed anyway. while they live, they give each other a light they could have never before fathomed. they love each other, and the play presents their love as the most beautiful, redeeming, incredible miracle possible. as wild and frantic as their passion might be, it is there, and of everything that drives this play and its characters, their love is the most powerful force of all.
tl dr; romeo and juliet is not a love story because of the way they die together. romeo and juliet is a love story because of the way they live together.